This piece originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Independent Agent magazine and is reprinted here with permission.
Word of mouth, repeat business and referrals used to be enough to maintain a thriving sales organization. But today, buyers have more options than ever before, they're more educated, and the phone doesn't ring like it used to.
That means sellers need to be proactive in growing their pipelines and securing meetings with buyers. Here are five ways to get started:
Technology sellers lament how impossible it is to get their buyers on the phone more than any other industry.
Phone is one of the top ways sellers say they connect with buyers, yet sellers in the technology industry report extreme difficulty using it to reach their buyers.
In our study on Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we studied 488 buyers responsible for $4.2 billion of purchases and the prospecting habits of 489 sellers. We looked at results across buyer and seller sets, top performers, and industry. As part of our research, we compared how buyers prefer to be contact by sellers across multiple industries.
Email is one of the top ways to break through and secure meetings with targeted buyers. In fact, 80% of buyers say they prefer to be contacted by sellers via email. It's an essential part of any prospecting plan.
However, too many prospecting emails fall victim to common mistakes that kill response rates. Recently, we shared 13 email prospecting best practices. Here are 7 email makeover ideas to help you improve your emails and work toward those best practices.
Email is an essential part of the prospecting process. In fact:
So, what can you do to get more of your buyers to accept meetings via email?
Below we outline 13 email prospecting tips to help you do just that. (Note: It takes more than 1 or 2 emails to break through and secure a meeting. On average, it takes 8 touches to break through and typically these touches include a mix of media.)
Sales prospecting has changed more than any other facet of sales in the last 10 years. There are a lot of clickbait articles with radical advice popping up and leading sellers astray.
In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we undertook a study of 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers to find out what's working and what's not in sales prospecting.
In this infographic, we contrast 5 popular assumptions about prospecting with facts from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research.
How many attempts does it take to break through to busy buyers?
What offers are most accepted?
Do cold meetings convert to new business?
In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research uncovered the answers to these critical prospecting questions. With data from 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers, we've cracked the code on what works in prospecting today.
This infographic highlights 30 must-know stats from our research and analysis and what they mean for sellers in today's world.
In sales, you have a finite number of hours in a day. Most of those hours are spent on the immediate sales opportunities in your pipeline—those buyers who have a need they are looking address and a timeline to act. These buyers receive the majority of your time and attention, and rightfully so.
But what about the buyer you met at a conference or have had an initial sales call with that was "interesting" and "valuable" but goes nowhere? Or the buyer who downloads something from your website but is just "seeing what's out there?" What do you do with buyers who are a perfect fit for your company, but don't have an immediate need?
This is where lead nurturing comes into play.
Challenges abound when it comes to sales prospecting. From targeting and using the right outreach methods to maintaining motivation and energy, there are plenty of ways to outbound prospect and fail.
For our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, we asked 489 sellers who outbound prospect about the biggest prospecting issues they face. The top 10 prospecting challenges can be grouped into 4 categories:
Put me in front of 10 buyers and I'll close 7 of them. All I need is more meetings.
I hear this from sellers all the time. Get me more "at bats" and I'll get the hits.
To succeed in sales, you need a consistent stream of new leads to fill the front end of the pipeline.
You can't, however, just sit back and wait for the phone to ring or email to ding.
You need to be proactive in filling your own pipeline if you're going to succeed with prospecting.
How many touches does it take to make a sale?
The simple answer is: more than most people think!
According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning. It takes a lot more to make the sale.
There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time:
The question, however, is so what?
Sellers and sales leaders often interpret this to mean that buyers don't want to hear from sellers.
This is far from the truth.
Buyers are awash with information, bombarded with sales and marketing messages, crazy busy, and tasked to do more with less.
Yet they still want to hear from sellers and they still accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them proactively.
The sellers who secure these meetings achieve significantly greater success with a much different approach.
Most of the buying journey is complete before buyers talk to sellers. Cold calling is dead. It's impossible for sellers to break through to buyers. Buyers don't want to hear about your capabilities. With all the information on the internet, buyers do their own research.
Sellers hear these messages all the time.
But are they true?
By: Mary Flaherty and Mike Schultz
If there's a black box in the world of sales, it's prospecting. What to do, how to do it, and what it means to be good at it. And with all the conflicting advice out there, it's especially difficult to figure out where to start and how to get better.
Fortunately there are ways to warm prospects up, get them to talk with you about their concerns, and get them interested in hearing what you have to say. You must, however, do it within the first few seconds of the conversation.
Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup!
Just those two words together—cold calling—puts many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens?
Because it works.
We all love repeat business, referrals, and inbound warm leads. The problem is you can’t scale warm leads. When these run out, so does your ability to grow your revenue, unless, of course, you prospect and drive new leads in the pipeline yourself.
Many people want to beleive that cold calling doesn't work because they don't want to have to do cold calling. Indeed, there are many ways to do it wrong and fail. There are many cold callers out there using deceptive tactics to get through, which leaves a bad taste in buyers' mouths.
Just because a buyer is in a position of authority—and has the financial ability to buy—doesn't mean they will, in fact, buy. They have to be in the right mindset.
We call the right mindsets "buying modes." The wrong mindsets, "non-buying modes." When you understand which mode someone is in, you'll know whether they’re inclined to make a purchase or not.
Breaking into new accounts and setting meetings is one of the most difficult tasks sellers face. But if you want to be successful in sales, you need to be able to build your own pipeline and drum up your own business. You need to be able to prospect for new business with great success.
To increase your odds of landing initial meetings, follow these five appointment-setting tips:
What is the #1 challenge or issue you face when it comes to growing sales for your business?
When I recently reached out to my network and asked that same question, 75% mentioned sales prospecting as their #1 challenge.
The problem isn’t that people don’t know what to do; it’s that what they’ve always done no longer works. Want proof? Think about the last time you met an actual decision maker at a networking event, and that conversation led to a sale. How about from a cold call? Trade show? Advertisement?
The simple truth is this: if you do what everybody else is doing, you’ll get the same results everybody else is getting.
If your firm is like most, you've been using CRM software for years now. Name after name, title after title, data point upon data point, you've likely stockpiled a huge amount of prospecting information through various lead generation activities. You’ve created countless records and guided each one through your sales pipeline.
What do you do with those records once you can no longer push them forward? Again, if your firm is like most, you probably leave them languishing in your database, perhaps with a sad "lost – chose competitor" or "dead – no budget" tag attached.
But these are more than just dead data. You probably have years of information on individuals that ran into budget issues, delayed decisions, or even hired a competitor. Now, months or even years later, departments may have allocated bigger budgets, industry dynamics may have changed, and competitors may not have lived up to expectations.
Cold prospecting – reaching out to targets you don’t know to generate an initial meeting – is one of the hardest parts of sales. Partly, it’s a numbers game. With decision makers more insulated than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get past gatekeepers and beyond voicemail.
But what happens when you do get a cold prospect to pay attention – whether it’s because they picked up the phone, or responded to an email or a direct mail piece? Do you feel like you nail it every time?
Much prospecting success is determined in this first interaction. Many opportunities die here before you have a chance to engage.
I recently conducted a webinar for a client on sales prospecting. Leading up to the webinar, I asked what questions the client had in regards to prospecting so I could tailor the content to their particular challenges. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I only got one response. And that is not because they are masters of prospecting. Quite the contrary. It's because they do so little of it and were unsure of what questions to ask. Like most sellers, they were doing little prospecting at all.
It's 2001. You work for a new company in the search engine space. Let's call this company Shmoogle.
Shmoogle has this huge new idea—businesses are starting to grow based on getting found on the Internet. Why not have businesses pay per click to get found? Brilliant!
You're a sales person at Shmoogle, and you know pay per click will be huge. You start prospecting on the phone.
People with kids tell me that sometimes you have to let them fail, even when you could have jumped in to save them, so they will learn. Painful to sit by and watch, but necessary for growth. After being on the receiving end of an awful sales call last week, now I know the feeling.
Poor kid (he could have been 60 for all I know, but he seemed like a kid), started sinking from the get-go. Since I couldn't dive in and save him, the future parent in me is dying to share the learning with someone. So here goes.
While I will protect the name of the innocent, I have summarized my favorite (if I can call them that) 5 deadly sins that pulled him down like a pair of concrete shoes in the Mystic River.